Landmark research has found unhealthy food cravings can be significantly reduced in just eight weeks by a new online program teaching 'psychological acupuncture' techniques to people struggling with their weight.
The findings from Bond University clinical psychologist, Dr Peta Stapleton, come off the back of the largest worldwide study ever conducted into how Emotional Freedom Techniques (EFT) - rapidly tapping with two fingers on specific acupuncture points on the face or body - can be delivered via online therapy.
Dr Stapleton is a world leading expert in the application of new therapies to treat obesity and weight management. Her most recent published paper demonstrated EFT, when taught in a clinical setting, is equally as effective as cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) in reducing food cravings.
Dr Stapleton said the preliminary findings of the new online trial established the simple, cost-effective technique of 'tapping' maintained the same positive effects when administered online to participants who self-pace.
"This means that the already simple tapping technique can be simplified yet again through an online delivery program without jeopardising the end result of reducing food cravings," she said.
"The implications of the online trial will have wide-reaching benefits for people struggling with food cravings who can't physically attend clinical sessions for various reasons, such as those living remotely or overseas.
"In the past there had been some concern over whether EFT taught online would be specific enough to have the same effect as when taught in person by a clinical practitioner.
"These findings demonstrate that if the online program is delivered well and structured by the normal clinical guidelines, it will absolutely have the same positive effect as attending in person."
More than 500 people took part in the eight week trial which gave participants free access to six hours of detailed videos demonstrating how and when to practice the tapping technique, alongside weekly handouts and a private Facebook group for support.
The preliminary findings showed a significant improvement across all measures including reduced food cravings, improved power over food, improved restraint ability and reduced depression and anxiety symptoms.
"The first group to complete the program finished the eight week intervention in November and the six month follow-up data has shown a continued reduction across all measures, meaning participants are not eating the unhealthy food they once craved even six months down the track," she said.
"We will continue to monitor their progress over the next year and will publish the final data when it is available, but at this stage I am fully expecting to see the positive effects sustained over the long-term.
"This is the only clinically researched program looking at the online delivery of EFT for weight management and the preliminary positive results are very exciting.
"The next step will be looking at how we can make an online EFT program accessible to people world-wide, and looking at how we incorporate it into a multidisciplinary approach to the management of weight gain and obesity."